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One of the places that I’ve always wanted to visit in Portland, OR, is Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s is the kind of bookstore that people in Seattle discuss in the same reverent tones that they use when they’re describing Cody’s in Berkeley or City Light in San Francisco.

It’s not just a bookstore. It’s a destination.

I guess that’s why I was soooo disappointed.

i-96c87f457d689c33e39c0ef815ee001e-powells.jpgFrom the outside Powell’s looks pretty low key and you’re really relieved to have escaped the overpowering smell of patchouli and the feeling that maybe Jerry didn’t die, he just moved to Portland and hangs out at the Portland Saturday market.

But a few seconds after you stroll in the door, the zombie phase hits and you start walking around like you’ve been tagged with some kind of stun gun.

Your jaw drops. Your eyes glaze over. Maybe, if you’re like me, you have to quickly lick your lips and wipe your face on your sleeve because you feel something wet on your chin and realize that you’ve been drooling.

The smiling people at the cash register shoot you a knowing glance and graciously hand you a map.


It was wonderful.







To quote Charlie Brown: ARRRRGGGHHHH!

I thought, well, Powell’s!, such a wonderful, extraordinary place, I mean, , well ya know, I guess I was expecting too much.

I would have helped move these books to the proper area myself except that the people that I was with were mortified enough to have me take out my camera and photograph the awful sight.

i-aad6b14b46f1f714c9670f3f2a487229-science.jpgAnyway, PZ, Bora, and Shelley have all written about the biologists helping bookstores, so, BHB, now you know, Powell’s needs your help!


  1. #1 writerdd
    September 10, 2007

    Powell’s has a separate technical bookstore. Did you go there? I didn’t on my recent trip. And I was pressed for time so I didn’t get to peruse the whole downtown store thoroughly. I just went to the foreign language section because I was looking for hard-to-find Lithuanian books.

  2. #2 Chan
    September 10, 2007

    You missed Powell’s Technical Books a few blocks away on Park Ave, just north of Burnside. Imagine that. An entire floor of a building devoted to science books, entire aisles of math books. It knocks the socks off of what Cody’s used to be.

  3. #3 Chan
    September 10, 2007

    I thought about your post again and examined your picture in the post. It looks like it was taken from the science shelf in the new arrivals section. Did you even make it to the Orange section of the store? Where they have one side of an entire aisle devoted to birds, another on plants, shelves of books on evolution, etc.

  4. #4 sbh
    September 10, 2007

    Powell’s is an amazing place, and one that I appreciate all the more as before it opened Portland had no real book store to speak of, but they have made some interesting shelving decisions over the years. When I had occasion to look for Max Beerbohm I was directed to the theater section–why, I don’t know, but there he was. Well, his books were there anyway. Did they have him confused with Beerbohm-Tree? And when I went to look for De Camp’s Lost Continents I was told they didn’t have a copy, but if they did, it would be in (of all places) the occult section. I went to the occult section, and damned if they didn’t have a copy.

  5. #5 Sandra Porter
    September 10, 2007

    I missed the technical book store, but that gives me something to look at on our next trip.

    Perhaps if book store personnel can’t distinguish between science fiction and the occult, it might be too much to expect them to know the difference between science and religion

  6. #6 J-Dog
    September 10, 2007

    There is No excuse for miss-merchandising. I don’t care if it’s Powells or Limited Express.

    Management needs to straighten this out before the ruin their reputation.

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